New awards need modern spin, says ACCI

By: Jason Whittaker


New industrial awards set to operate from 2010 may not meet flexibility and productivity objectives if old rules are simply

New industrial awards set to operate from 2010 may not meet flexibility and productivity objectives if old rules are simply translated into the modern system, according to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI).

ACCI Chief Executive Peter Anderson says the new system must be given a chance to work, but cannot be quarantined from criticism.

"Today’s award modernisation will not be worth all the trouble if awards end up looking like the old set of rules again or tie up industry with inefficient work practices," Anderson says.

"Although the Australian Industrial Relations Commission is doing a worthy job rewriting industrial awards, most of the modernisation is amalgamating existing awards to reduce numbers but is not making the content modern," he says.

"Some unions have already set up disputes because the employer wanted the type of flexibility that the government had promised."

In some States and in some industries labour costs will go up not because an employee is working differently, but because awards are being amalgamated into fewer numbers.

Action by chambers of commerce and industry associations have achieved phasing in periods for many of these costs.

"The complexity of a large number of awards applying in a single workplace may be reduced, but content is more important than numbers," Anderson explains.

He says a draft catch-all award decided last Friday risks expanding award regulation into the unknown, including some areas of managerial and professional employment.

"A modern safety net is needed, but an amalgam of old rules dressed up as new awards does not have history on its side."

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